This afternoon, Apple announced the iPhone 4S, the latest addition to the iPhone family. Focused on performance upgrades and incredible new software, the announcement defied the expectations of just about everyone and did not roll out at an iPhone 5. The new phones will be on sale on October 14th, presale on October 7th, for Verizon, AT&T, and newcomer Sprint. The 4S will come in three sizes: 64GB, 32GB, and 16GB retailing for $399, $299, and $199, respectively. iPhone 3Gs will continue to be sold, now free with an AT&T contract, as well as the original iPhone 4 for $99.
Though there wasn’t an iPhone 5, Apple did roll out a slew of improvements in the 4S, including an all new voice command system called Siri.
Though the 4S has an almost identical outward appearance as the iPhone 4, it has all new guts. Packing an A5 ARM processor, the same used in the iPad, the new phone boasts a 2x speed improvement for CPU operations and a 7x improvement for graphics. While the phone will not be listed as “4G,” it boasts 14mbps download speeds, making it comparable to most current 4G-branded devices. Apple also went after the point-and-shoot camera with an all new 8 megapixel camera and improved photo-taking software to back that up. The 4S can also shoot 1080p HD video.
Apple also gave dates for the roll out of their new mobile operating system, iOS 5. The new operating system will be pushed out to users on October 12. Users can look forward to a new alerts system, camera interface, location-aware reminders, and a new greeting card making application. The deep integration of Twitter was also reinforced in today’s announcement, showing off the ability to tweet photos, map locations, and websites. Also new in iOS 5 is Find My Friends, which is similar to the “Find My iPhone” functionality except you can track down other iPhone users. There are apparently parental controls for this new capability.
Also announced was the date for Apple’s iTunes Match program, which will allow users to download MP3s they’ve ripped from CDs as they can purchased tracks from iTunes. The service will launch at the end of October for $25 per year. Additionally, Apple’s iCloud will be rolling out October 12.
But the star of the show was Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant. Originally a stand alone app, that was apparently still available for download until sometime this afternoon, Siri was purchased wholesale by Apple in April of last year. Using Siri, users can speak commands and questions to their phone, and get sensible and usable responses. At the core of this service is Siri’s ability to understand natural language, so the days of arcane, specific voice commands are (hopefully) gone.
With Siri, you can access just about all of your phone’s core functionality. Creating and moving appointments can all be handled by voice, as well as making calls. Siri can even read your messages to you, and then allow you to dictate a response. In fact, dictation will now be available across the phone, but will require a data connection. It’s also tightly integrated to Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia, and the built-in weather service. So you can ask it if you need an umbrella, find out how much £19 is in USD, ask for area restaurants, and then get directions.
Without a true-blue iPhone 5, the 4S is billing itself on the improved processing power and new software. The new capabilities with iOS 5 and the intriguing possibilities presented by Siri make a compelling argument to upgrade. Whether or not consumers will agree remains to be seen.
[Editors note: The above image was taken from the Apple.com and was titled "hero.jpg." How about that?]
Here’s a breakdown of what we can look forward to with this new phone:
- A5 ARM Chip, dual core
- 2x faster CPU processing, 7X faster graphics
- 14 mbps download speeds
- Global phone, GSM/CDMA
- 8mp photo sensor
- F 2.4 aperture
- Face detection, alignment grid, auto white-balancing
- Faster load up for the camera app and less time between images; 33% faster image capturing
- More robust software backing the camera; focus and exposure control
- Improved HD video at 1080p with image stabilization and noise reduction
- Natural language processing; ask it a question and it answers intelligently
- Ask it “Do I need a raincoat today,” it says “it sure looks like rain today”
- Set Alarms, Calendar events, and Reminders (which are location aware in iOS 5) via voice
- Reads your messages, allows you to respond
- Connects to Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia, can pull down currency conversions and definitions
- Plays songs, makes calls, finds locations
- Dictation button on keyboard — requires data connection — for all built-in apps
- Now instead of being hunched over your phone like an idiot, you can talk to it like a jackass
- “Who are you?” “I’m a humble personal assistant.”
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- Everything you need to know about iOS 5
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- iOS 5 is already jailbroken